- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

BOSTON — George Washington coach Karl Hobbs couldn’t have been too surprised by what he saw last night in the Colonials’ season opener against an overmatched Boston University team.

Hobbs’ young GW squad had as many moments of brilliance as moments that sent the sixth-year coach reaching for the sky in frustration. But in the end, the Colonials were able to pull away from the hot-shooting Terriers for a 70-57 win at BU’s Agganis Arena.

“In our first night out, I thought we did a good job establishing the tempo,” said Hobbs, whose team lost four starters off last year’s team that finished 27-3 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. “I liked our defensive pressure, and we’re a team that always finds a way to score. I think we’ll need to find a way to score a bit more in the future, but it was a good effort.”

Senior Carl Elliott, the team’s lone returning starter, paced the Colonials (1-0) with 25 points and clearly will be the go-to man for GW this season. In addition to his team-leading point total, the 6-foot-4 guard grabbed five rebounds, dished out three assists and was 11-for-11 from the free throw line.

It was no doubt an impressive season-opening performance, but Hobbs knows his senior leader will need to have many more nights like last night for the team to contend in the Atlantic 10.

“There are going to be nights where he has to get over 30 and also grab seven or eight rebounds,” Hobbs said. “But he’s faced adversity before. He’s faced tougher challenges than this. I like his character and have confidence in him.”

Junior Maureece Rice, last season’s A-10 Sixth Man of the Year, moved into the starting backcourt and responded with nine points and three assists in a team-high 38 minutes. Rice and Elliott are the only two returnees who averaged more than 20 minutes a game last year and Elliott knows the duo will shoulder much of the scoring burden this year.

“Me and Maureece have to be leaders,” Elliott said. “It’s as simple as that.”

The duo sparked GW’s swarming full-court defense, which forced 18 turnovers for the game. As good as the Colonials played on the defensive end, they couldn’t pull away from a BU team that fired up 3-pointers at every opportunity. The Terriers (0-1) were 10-for-27 from behind the arc.

As BU kept draining 3s, the inexperienced Colonials continued to battle. They struggled at times in transition, committing 13 turnovers, but never stopped attacking the basket. Hobbs also was frustrated that his team surrendered 12 offensive rebounds and could only collect six of its own.

But his outlook was brightened by the performance of some truly untested players who earned major minutes thanks to the loss of veteran leaders like Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Mike Hall and Omar Williams — a trio that led GW to NCAA tournament appearances the past two years.

Players like Rob Diggs, a sophomore who averaged seven minutes last season, will make or break this year’s team. In 34 minutes of action last night, Diggs finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, earning the praise of his coach.

“Diggs gave us some great minutes,” Hobbs said. “To be just three rebounds away from a double-double in the first game is impressive.”

Forward Dokun Akingbade, a senior who redshirted last season, scored five points but also was active defensively. Senior Regis Koundjia, a role player off the bench last season, started on the wing and scored six points while pulling down five rebounds.

“Hopefully some guys can step up and start filling up the stat sheet for us a little more,” Hobbs said. “We’ll need to score a lot more than 70 a game this year.”

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